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Associated Press photos
Field judge Greg Gautreaux hands the red challenge flag back to Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz.
Houston 34, Detroit 31

Lions flagged down in loss

Challenge rule gives Texans TD in overtime win

Houston’s Shayne Graham kicks the game-winning 32-yard field goal in overtime Thursday.

– Jim Schwartz held the challenge flag in his hand, certain Houston’s long touchdown wouldn’t count. Running back Justin Forsett was clearly down around his own 25-yard line, and that’s where the ball would be spotted once the play was reviewed.

Then Schwartz threw his red flag onto the field – and in doing so, he ensured that the Texans’ dubious scoring play would count.

“I know that we can’t challenge a turnover or a scoring play, and I overreacted,” the Detroit coach said. “That’s all my fault. I overreacted in that situation, and I cost us a touchdown.”

Schwartz’s mistake was only the beginning. Detroit let a 10-point third-quarter lead slip away and lost 34-31 in overtime to the Texans on Thursday.

The Lions led 24-14 when Forsett scored on an 81-yard run, taking advantage of a blown call that couldn’t be reviewed because of Schwartz’s ill-advised challenge. Replays clearly showed Forsett’s knee touching the ground around his own 25 – Detroit players even slowed up, assuming the play was over.

Forsett got up and ran all the way to the end zone.

“I know now that I was down, but I didn’t think I was during the play. I didn’t think my knee hit, and there was no whistle, so I kept going,” Forsett said. “I wasn’t giving the touchdown back.”

Scoring plays are reviewed automatically, but if a coach throws a challenge flag like Schwartz did, the review is negated and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is assessed. So the touchdown stood despite obvious evidence it should never have happened.

“There should be no blame on Schwartz or the coaches,” Detroit defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “I mean, there’s enough plays left out there, enough plays that we could have made. There were 70-plus minutes.”

Atlanta coach Mike Smith made a similar mistake a few days earlier against Arizona, throwing his challenge flag on a fumble that would’ve been subject to review anyway.

Detroit (4-7) still led 24-21 after Forsett’s touchdown, and the Lions took a 31-24 advantage on Joique Bell’s 23-yard TD run with 13:31 left in the fourth.

Houston rallied, tying it at 31 on Arian Foster’s 1-yard run with 1:55 to play. That touchdown capped a 15-play, 97-yard drive that included a conversion on fourth-and-7.

Texans kicker Shayne Graham missed from 51 yards in overtime, but Detroit’s Jason Hanson hit the right upright from 47. Graham finally connected from 32 to win it.

Detroit extended its losing streak in its annual Thanksgiving showcase to nine.

Hanson’s miss came on third down after the Lions had lost 3 yards on a second-down run. The Lions sent the veteran kicker onto the field instead of trying to move the ball a bit closer.

“We didn’t want to give up a negative play, and they’d been trying really hard to strip the ball, so we didn’t want to risk a turnover,” Schwartz said.

The Lions were hoping a three-game homestand could help revive their playoff hopes, but they lost against Green Bay last weekend and couldn’t hold on against the Texans.

AFC South-leading Houston (10-1) has won five straight – two in a row in OT – and if a handful of teams lose, the Texans could be in the playoffs by the end of this weekend.

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was 29 of 48 for 315 yards with a 9-yard TD to Owen Daniels that tied it at 14 late in the first half. Houston’s Andre Johnson had nine catches for 188 yards.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford was 31 of 61 for 441 yards with two TDs – tiebreaking scores to Calvin Johnson and Mike Thomas in the second quarter. It wasn’t enough.

“We got what we deserved,” Stafford said. “We didn’t capitalize on our chances.”

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